Valentino and Le Ragazze
“It’s called couture because nothing is done with a machine” explains master couturier and famed fashion designer Valentino Garavani, when speaking about his current exhibition “Valentino: Master of Couture” on view at London’s Somerset House until March 3, 2013.
Haute couture, by definition, refers to designs made completely by hand. In the couture houses of Paris the workers are referred to as les mains, which literally means “the hands.” Though in Valentino’s storied Roman atelier at Palazzo Mignanelli, each garment is constructed by le ragazze, which from Italian translates to “the girls.”
“The girls” are, in reality, “the white-coated expert technicians who painstakingly hand-craft each garment, many of who have been with Valentino for decades, are also part of his family” says Somerset House’s Claire Caterall in the book “Valentino: Master of Couture, A Private View.”
It is through le ragazze that the age-old couture techniques are practiced and perfected, taking a Valentino sketch and beautifully, yet painstakingly, bringing the designer’s creation to life, stitch, by stitch, by stitch.
It has been said that somewhere in Valentino’s atelier there is a pile of sewing machines, untouched and gathering dust. Couture is “like a sculpture that is done in the body of the lady,” adds Valentino. And like the sculpture of David, eyes toward Rome, carved by hand, there are no machines involved in creating Valentino’s masterpieces. Rather, each was sculpted with care by le ragazze.